Book Tour: A Crown of Wishes

I was lucky enough to get a chance to see the fabulous Roshani Chokshi in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last night, while she wrapped up her tour for A Crown of Wishes (click on the title to see my 4.5 rave review!!)!  It just so happened that I “conveniently” ran into her before her panel and got to ask her 67 bookish questions!

Things I learned:

No more spoilers! Find out more:

 

**Special thanks to Griffin Teen**

Author & Event Spotlight

The Event: Nemesis Book Launch

Where: Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum, Charlotte NC
When: Tuesday, March 21
Who: Brendan Reichs and Renée Ahdieh

This was by far one of the most original panel discussions I’ve ever attended for a book launch, and it might be one of my favorites!  Brendan came prepared with a list of random questions for him and Renée to start off the event.  Those in attendance were treated to a lively conversation where we learned that Brendan’s least favorite word is Pamphlet and Renée’s is one that rhymes with “oist,” although I think everyone dislikes that word (not just you, Brad!).  Both authors told about their Hogwarts houses, Brendan apparently tried to rig the quiz to get Gryffindor, but still ended up a Ravenclaw (Yaaaaas!) with an Eagle Owl patronus (#Same).  Renée is a proud Slytherin, who used to lie about being a Gryffindor, apparently a very Slytherin thing to do and the patronus of a rat, which she is fine with because Ratatouille.

My favorite part of this part was that after asking the audience to choose a number between 1 and 50, they took turns reading a small snippet from each other’s newest releases to the crowd. Someone hollered out 23, so I got this part on video for everyone! They then followed up with a brief summary of their inspiration for these books and what they are about. You can definitely tell these two are good friends and are hilarious together.

After asking each other a few rounds of questions about their books, Brendan was equipped with a Polar Express Conductors hat full of random rapid fire questions for himself and Renée, and coincidentally, those of us in the front row. Some of these conductor questions included Magic Wand or Light Saber, Hogwarts Headmaster or Starfleet Captian, Ghost or Ghostbuster, Prehistoric Times or the year 3010, and on and on.  It was pretty fun and I think it allowed the audience to feel more engaged, although I’m a bit partial since I was able to do the participating.

Brendan and Renée then signed books for the crowd (and there was an impressive one!).  Check out more photos below sprinkled between my interview with the star of the evening, Brendan Reichs!

Midsummer Reads (MSNR): Thanks so much for sitting down with me, are you excited?

Brendan Reichs (BR): I’ve very excited, tonight is the first night I’ve ever done a book event for Nemesis, so it’s a big deal.

MSNR: Yes! And it’s in your hometown.

BR: It is, it’s fun to do it at home. It’s actually a little nerve wracking to do it at home just because you know a lot of people in the audience, so it’s not like having that distance you have with a normal crowd, but it’ll be great.

MSNR: Are a lot of people you know coming?

BR: Uh, they better.

MSNR: That’s how I would be; Uh, I’d better see you or someone’s going to get hurt.

BR: I’m taking names.

MSNR: So this book is super complex.

BR: It is.

MSNR: I was reading it and I was like, SO MANY THINGS HAPPENING. Could you describe it in one sentence to a reader?

BR: I actually try. That’s why it was so hard to actually sell the idea because trying to describe it was too crazy to get it into one sentence. Basically…

MSNR (interrupting because I’m rude): You can describe it in a run-on sentence

BR: I would describe Nemesis as Min is a girl at 16 years old and every two years on her birthday she is murdered by the same person except she doesnt die like a normal person, instead she wakes up about a half a mile away without a scratch on her every single time. So on her 16th birthday after she’s been murdered for the 5th time she’s finally had enough and decides she needs to figure this out.  No one is really paying attention to her because there’s this world wide calamity going on where there’s an asteroid heading towards the planet and no one knows when it’s going to hit. And there’s this bit national/international human existence story going on. So there’s very little attention being paid to the trials of a teenager in Idaho.

MSNR (Interrupting, again, because I’m the worst): Right, because no one pays attention to teenagers.

BR: Right, exactly. And there’s another character, and this book has been fun because it’s the first time I’ve written a male point of view in my career, so Noah is having the same things happen to him except that he’s a little bit less stable than Min.  He’s a – kind of one of those guys that on the outside he – he’s a rich kid and she’s a poor kid – he’s trying to keep everything together but really he is a mess. Because he’s been having the same thing happen to him but he doesn’t trust himself to know that it’s even real. So these two things are happening and they eventually decide and they start to investigate that everyone around them starts to be suddenly implicated and you can’t trust anyone. And they find out that they might be at the center of a vast government conspiracy that may implicate all life on Earth.

MSNR: That is a big run on sentence. I’m okay with it.

BR: Yes, it is.

MSNR: So when I was reading it, I found it to be kind of a commentary on human emotion and the way that human nature really plays into the certain aspects of the two characters, specifically, and how they react to this outside force that’s coming onto them.  Very much like Lord of the Flies, like, they are put in this situation, how are they going to react?

BR: That is an essential influence, and I think the publisher likes to use the tagline of “Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies,” which is an interesting combination, but there’s no good parallel anyway. But that’s what you want and I appreciate that you say that, because you want the story to be about the characters. Ultimately there’s a lot of plot going on in this book and if you stick with it it will all unwind itself, but it winds up pretty heavily at the beginning where you’re not really supposed to know what the hell is going on for a large portion of the book, and then it’s really good that it’s supposed to be centered on the characters because ultimately that’s where every story either fails or survives is on how good the characters are, because the best plot in the world doesn’t survive if you don’t care what happens. So I spent a lot of time trying to put the characters together, I hate the term strong female protagonist because that implies that your female antagonist has to be masculine or different in a way, you know, I just like to think of her as a strong person, and it shouldn’t be noteworthy that she is female, and it was interesting to get to write a male character’s perspective, although I’ve not read the entire breadth of YA, but I’d never read a YA where the male lead was basically kind of a mess.

(Literally this whole time I’m nodding my head and agreeing, because Brendan has taken over the interview **in a good way**) 

BR (continued): So i thought that would be fun because that’s normally assigned to a female character, so you get to overcome their internal difficulties, which can be boring, but what if this is a 15 to 16 year old boy who is putting the good face out there but doesn’t really have an idea of what he is doing with his life. I mean what is happening to him and stuff. So that was the motivation for that. If you like the characters then that’s exactly what I’m about.

MSNR: I actually assigned them songs: Um, I put Min as being very much like Titanium by David Guetta and Sia.

BR: That’s very good.

MSNR: And then I put Noah as more of the Bleachers, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, um, Jack Antonoff, and it’s called I Wanna Get Better. It’s about mental health and screaming at himself “I wanna get better,” I want to be better than this, and that’s kind of exactly how I see Noah.

BR: Somewhere in the blogosphere (*waves* hey everyone!) there’s a, and I believe it’s for YA Highway, I’d have to look it up, but I did make two playlists. On the Min Playlist, the first song is a Halsey song, because when I listened to her album that just clicked to me, I was like, this is that kind of angry but not a pushover type vibe that I was getting. Like she was pissed off and isolated, but she’s also not asking for favors.

MSNR: Which I really like. Because sometimes girls are perceived as being, you know, weak and asking for help a lot. At least in the South, which is what I grew up with.

BR: And there’s some great YA being written right now with female lead characters, so this is in no way sort of any genre defining effort, just that in the beginning the came fully formed to me, and that she would be isolated and damaged by what had happened to her, but NEVER broken by it. Just that she’s a fighter and she stays that way even though it does have it’s affects. YOu know she acts like she has no friends..

MSNR: Awe, but I like Tack though. Even though he never knows when to shut up.

BR: No, he doesn’t And Tack is sort of my character, and every one of my books that I write, there’s basically one character that’s sort of me talking through the book, you know what I would say in each situation, because I’m kind of a smart ass that doesn’t know when to be quiet either, and that’s sort of Tack in this book.  He’s basically saying the things that I would be saying when I shouldn’t be, you know, running my mouth.

MSNR: Honestly there’s a little bit of all of us in Tack, probably, especially when we were teenagers and never knowing quite when to be quiet.

THIS IS THE SPOT WHERE WE TALK ABOUT SPOILERY THINGS. 

PROMISED BRENDAN IT WOULD BE OFF THE RECORD *SINGS* LALALALALALA

BR: This was the last piece that fell into place for the book. I’m a big planner and when you write books like this that are so plot oriented they have to make sense and you have to keep track of what’s happening.

Matchy-matchy!

MSNR: So let’s just refer to it as “The Twist,” so where you plotting the book and then “the twist,” fell in or you were influenced by outside research?

BR: Most of the time the best ideas that come to me when I’m writing come to me about 2/3rds of the way through the first draft. This is when I’ve been living with the idea for about two months, and I’ll wake up one day, and typically in the shower, it will come to me and will have connected overnight. And this was one of the last pieces to come in and it was really three book ideas that all really came together in this crazy boo, which is why it’s so overbaked in terms of that there’s so much in it and because I had all this stuff and I managed to slot it all in together.

MSNR: I know, but I like that it has so much in it because it keeps you on your toes. I literally had to put it down to go to sleep, and I was so concerned about trying to figure out what was happening!

BR: And this is the stuff that I like to read…

Renée Ahdieh (RA)  shows up being adorable: Totally crashing!

MSNR: Hi, how are you!

RA: Good, how are you?

MSNR: Good!

RA (to BR): What’s up, how are you feeling?

BR: Good, good.

MSNR: This is weird, but you smell really good. (I still think this is weird but I had to keep this in haha)

BR: She always smells good, it’s a signature.

RA (wanders away, being fabulous): *laughing at us* I do like that.

MSNR: So, I’m not going to lie. The guy in the black suit? I totally pictured him as Agent Smith from the Matrix the whole time, and maybe that’s because I grew up with the Matrix, but yeah.

BR: No, that’s fair. And for our generation it would be an Agent Smith type- I mean- for me he looks a little different. Although for me, and this is probably not something I should admit to an audience, but I find the way the character looks, and in the book I’m consistent in the way the character looks but in my head that’s never how the character looks.  it’s just a weird dissonance that no one’s ever called out before because no one knows what things look like in my head.

MSNR: In my head he looked like Agent Smith.

BR: Right, for me he’s more of a Guy Pierce, but yeah you know it’s like a flat hair, flat face individual. And I just finished drafting the second draft of the sequel…

MSNR: So we are going to learn more about the project?

BR: It gets darker and deeper and a lot of the Lord of the Flies aspects are really going to come to the fore, because one of the questions I was dealing with was, the main premise, which was that I wanted to fight the finality of death, and what if death was not final; but not in like a zombie way or a ghost way or a resurrection way, but legitimately if it just didn’t work. Like, you died but you didn’t.

MSNR: As long as Tack isn’t Piggy the whole time.

BR: Right. Well, there’s a lot of, and you know I read Lord of the Flies, and you realize only two people die in that.

MSNR: Yes, but you get it.

BR: But they played it and it’s so beautifully written and you get their dissent. And with my book, I’m hoping to get that same thing, but also that a lot of people die. Because you know with Min’s experience in this book, death has not been permanent and that is such a central question. How would you deal with that? How do you deal with the idea that something that you know should be the end of something isnt? And you can’t really control it?

MSNR: I think the last question I have for you, because I don’t want to keep you too long, is that why you decided to do it on their birthdays, and you know not on…

BR: That is a question that will be revealed, and there’s a lot of little detail strings that are still out there and that’s because you don’t really know at the end of Nemesis, what is next. This book leads you to a point, but it doesn’t take you past that.  And a careful reader would ask themselves, “wait, why was this happening,” but I haven’t gotten to that yet.  That’s a great answer. You know if I didn’t answer it, “Oh, it’s in book 2!” And then I’m like, will you write that down and send it to me? Just in case I made a mistake.

MSNR: When can we expect book two?

BR: Uh, it should be a year. I mean I’m putting in the drafts now so I expect roughly the same time next year.  You know, we don’t have much say. I really like Spring releases, which you never know, but I assume it would be next spring.

MSNR: Well, thank you so much for talking with me!

BR: No, thank you so much.

MSNR: It was so good to meet you in person!

BR: Good to meet you too, and I’ll see you..

MSNR: Yep, you’ll see me in a few minutes!

 

A huge and special thanks to Brendan Reichs, Penguin Teen, and Renée Ahdieh for the event on March 21.

Nemesis is available NOW! Go pick up a copy.

 

 

Blog Tour: Q & A with Carrie Mac

Welcome to the Midsummer Reads day on the 10 Things I Can See From Here Blog Tour!

I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Carrie Mac about her new book and about some of the content!

You can keep an eye our for review of 10 Things I Can See From Here, coming soon!

Interview Key: Italics= Midsummer, Bold = Carrie Mac

  1. Carrie, as someone who struggles with anxiety, it is so great to read a book that depicts the spiraling thoughts that come along with it.  Did you do a lot of research to show this accurately?

Anxiety is a very unwelcome houseguest in my own imagination.

It’s always there, and even when I kindly—or very unkindly—suggest that it’s time to go, it hangs around. Sometimes when I’ve tried to get rid of it, it hides and I think it’s finally gone, but then it burns a piece of toast in the kitchen and starts a small fire and before you know it there are sirens and then the fire trucks are outside and the house has burnt down. Or no, wait, it hasn’t. Just the smoke alarm went off.

That little shit Anxiety never left. It just hid in a closet until I was finally calming down. Oh, I know Anxiety well. I don’t like it, but we are close.

Same for a couple other dear members of my family, so it was all too easy to write. And all too easy to give to Maeve.

Sorry Maeve. Love you, hon.

 

2. What was your thought process of not having Maeve attend therapy while staying with her family in Canada?

There are a couple of reasons.

As much as Maeve’s dad and stepmom are on board with whatever Deena wants to do to support Maeve, they have their own ideas and beliefs about mental health and truth be told, they’re not that into formal supports, if at all avoidable. Maeve’s dad doesn’t give much thought to any particular ‘approach’ to Maeve’s mental health at all, other than to love her for who she is and support in any given moment to calm down or take it easy or change the subject. Claire is big into anything supporting Maeve’s mental health, but only if it rings as true and helpful. Claire—having experience with it herself — is not that into talk therapy, so that’s not something she wouldn’t leap at. But hikes and sleep and diet and homeopathy? Knitting? You bet!

Now that things have settled down, Maeve will sort herself out and find a therapist. Unless she’s going to use the six months to try other things.

Not knitting though.

Or marimba lessons.

 

3. I think I’ve only read one or two books that were explicit about being based in Canada! It was so nice to read about Vancouver. Since you live in Canada was this a natural choice, or was it a secret plot to make us all want to visit? (But seriously, I want to go to Vancouver now.) 

            This story lives in East Van. I’m sitting in my usual coffee shop writing now, looking out on the neighborhood where Maeve’s parents live. Most of my novels don’t need to be set anywhere in particular, but Maeve’s story is an East Vancouver story. This neighborhood is special, and it is exactly what I needed for Maeve. Her community needed to be healthy and vibrant and supportive and delightfully weird because she was already dealing with her anxiety and a very real mess at home, and then the added flurry that comes with falling in love. This neighborhood is an anchor in the book.

Absolutely come visit! This is a charmed city in so many ways, even if our dark underbelly can be exceptionally dark at times.

 

4. On your Twitter you mentioned that the bus beheading was a real story that inspired one of Maeve’s spirals, are the others she references real as well? 

Most of them are, yes. To name a few, the bus beheading, the women taken from the Downtown Eastside and murdered at a pig farm, the young women shot by a gunman while at college, the man who drove off the ferry dock, bedbug infestations, the suicide pact, cholera, the woman driving the ‘school bus’ van, and then others are more general, like someone jumping in front of a train, earthquakes (very real threat here), or being kidnapped from a city park. Real or not, though, I bent each one to make it fit. Like Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

 5. Speaking of, how much of your research for this novel was on disastrous statistics? 

            I only dipped into actual statistics when absolutely necessary because they freak me out. So much that I’m getting anxious just answering this question. Maeve needs facts. They both fuel her anxiety and set limits to it, so I researched for her. If it were up to me, I’d never ever look that shit up.

Now, what are ten things I can see from here …?

 

6. What is the most exciting thing about having 10 Things I Can See From Here being published with such a large advertising campaign? I swear most bloggers I talk to have either read your book or have had it pre-ordered for a long time! 

            I love actually seeing it everywhere. The cover just pops right out of websites and news releases and tweets sings “Hi! Look at me! I am so beautiful and you should read me and we will be such good friends!” And when I see the book pop up I think, “Oh! There’s my super famous friend!” and then I remember that 10 Things is my baby. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait for everyone to read it. And I cannot wait for people to send selfies of them reading it all over the place, with that gorgeous cover doing a song and dance on a dreary subway train or a dark bedroom on a rainy day.

 

7. What advice do you have to young writers who struggle to sit down and finish a story?

            Write all the way to the end. Don’t look back. Don’t re-read, don’t revise, don’t do spellcheck, just keep going all the way to the end. That’s when you can start to be precious about it. Wait until you have a first draft, and then you can worry, and revise, and change things around.

First drafts suck.

They should.

Write the damn thing, and then you get to move on to the second draft, which is so much better.

Don’t believe in writers’ block. It’s a myth. It doesn’t exist. Just because you can’t write the thing you want to write doesn’t mean you can’t work on something else.

Write.

Just write.

Imagine if you wrote only one single page a day, you’d have a 365-page novel at the end of the year.

Yay, you!

 

8. If you had to say one thing to a young reader after they read 10 Things I Can See From Here, what would you say? 

“What did you think of it?”

And then we’d get to talking because of their answer. Maybe they want to talk about Maeve, and how they identified with her anxiety, or maybe they loved how being queer was no big deal because it’s a huge taboo in their community. Or maybe they want to critique me on the book, because they’re a writer and would’ve done it differently.

I don’t have any one thing to say, but I would love to hear what readers have to say.

 

 

Thanks so much to Carrie Mac for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read!  You can pick up 10 Things I Can See From Here now!

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: Caleb Roehrig

book-birthday

Unfortunately technical difficulties attacked Team Midsummer and we had to transcribe the interview with the fabulous and wonderful Caleb Roehrig.  We hope he forgives us, because we adore him!

We were lucky enough to connect with Roehrig when he was promoting his book at the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, TX on October 1, 2016.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR): What inspired you to write this novel?

Caleb Roehrig (CR): Well, I love thrillers, especially anything with missing persons.  But also there was very few young adult books when I was growing up, and even less with LGBT protagonists. So I wanted to write a 25036310book that combined both of those elements and it ended up coming out as Last Seen Leaving.

MSNR: Well, you kind of answered this question already, but did you set out to write an LGBT novel?

CR: Yes, as I mentioned, there were very few novels that were written featuring LGBT characters and I really wanted to be able to show readers that there are characters and people like them in literature and in the world. 

MSNR: What is your writing process like? Do you outline, or do you just sit down and write?

CR: Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard but there are two types of writers, pantsers and plotters. I am definitely a plotter, otherwise I will go in too many directions. One time I wrote 160,000 words, but I kept writing myself into a corner, then took forever writing myself out of a corner, then wrote myself into ANOTHER corner.  I definitely have a start and an end, but sometimes I figure it out from there.

MSNR: What was your favorite part about writing this novel?

CR: I think it was being able to put red herrings in everywhere to deter readers from the actual answer. Although I did keep giving everyone an airtight alibi at first, so that made it difficult!

MSNR: What can we expect from you in the future?

CR: Well, I have two finished manuscripts, but my publisher is trying to decide which one will come out next!

MSNR: That’s awesome!

MSNR: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

CR: Well, I really want them to be in suspense and to be thrilled, but also for LGBT readers to see themselves in the main character, oh I think I just gave away a spoiler. SPOILER ALERT. Although the main goal is for all readers to identify with the journey that Flynn takes through the story. 

MSNR: So, your biography says you’ve lived in a lot of different places, where has been your favorite place to live?

CR: It is really hard to choose, because I’ve liked everywhere I’ve lived! I lived in Michigan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Europe.  We did just move back to LA, and I guess that means I chose LA? I remember not liking it at first when I moved there, but once I found my tribe and my place in LA, I loved it. So, if you go to LA, you have to find your LA.

MSNR: Where would you like to live that you haven’t lived?

CR: Hmmm, well, I’ve always wanted to live in Sweden! 

MSNR: Because it’s neutral?

CR: That and it just seems like such a nice place to live!

MSNR: What do you want to say to young LGBT readers, maybe something that you didn’t hear? 

img_2953

Jess sucks and this photo is blurry, but he’s awesome.

CR: Okay, you might hear this a lot, it does get better. Everything feels heavy when you’re a teenager and that it might be the end of the world, but it really does get better. Please, never stop having adventures.  You’ll always have time for new ones.  I mean, I just started this whole new book adventure, and that could be you. 

Thank you so much to Caleb and Fierce Reads for being so enthusiastic about Team Midsummer. We are so honored to support this sweet and enigmatic debut author and his novel!

Be sure to keep an eye out for our review of Last Seen Leaving in our celebration of LGBT History Month.

Also, we not so low key are in love with Caleb, so you should be too.

You can follow Caleb on his social media outlets:

Twitter. Instagram. Website.

Order his book now!

 

 

Author Interview & Book Launch: Renée Ahdieh

meandrenee

Jess and Renée

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I was given the opportunity to interview the author of one of the most anticipated novels of this Summer.  Renée Ahdieh has become a pretty well known in the young adult community thanks to fellow authors giving her debut novel, The Wrath and the Dawn some serious promotion.  Not only were all of the promotions by Lauren DeStefano, Carrie Ryan, and many others completely spot on, but you can also check out my 5 Bard review of Ahdieh’s novel here.

Plus, Ahdieh is local to the Charlotte, North Carolina area, which is where most of us reviewers for Midsummer live!  So myself (Jess), Christine, and Maedchen hopped in the car and drove down to the Barnes & Noble for Ahdieh’s book launch and had a nice sit down in the Starbucks.  Side note: can you look at her? She’s gorgeous. Beautiful and talented to boot, can we all be her?

Note: This interview was transcribed by hand.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MR): I am really excited about your book, which I have unfortunately not had a chance to read yet. So I’m going to start off with some generic questions and then I’m going to poke you for details.

Renée Ahdieh (RA): Okay!

MR: The first question: is it super nerve-racking to have your debut novel out in the world in such a big genre? And everyone is so excited about it! Twitter blew up today.

RA: I am a little bit nervous, but I think I’m mostly overwhelmed by all of the support that I’m getting from the YA Community, from bloggers, and everyone has just been so wonderful. So I’m just in that place of being overwhelmed and I don’t want to cry.

MR: Is it kind of like putting your baby out there?

RA: You know, I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to talk to others who’ve already had books come out. Some debut authors and some more established authors so they kind of prepped me and they were like, “You need to be okay prior to and letting it no longer be just yours.” So I’ve been kind of ready for that.  Right now I just hope everyone loves it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

MR: Well, I was on Twitter today and there was just so much love for your book all day, and I was just like, “This is awesome! And I get to go talk to her later!” So my other question is why 1001 nights? And while I was writing that question, it reminded me that it is sometimes called Arabian Nights and has anyone sang that Aladdin song to you?

RA: Oh yeah. A lot. In all fairness I’ve sung it so it’s okay! I mean I think there are a couple of blogs that I even wrote where I did the Whole New World like Aladdin with Jasmine on the magic carpet flying up into the sky. I love that movie. So I can go off on a Disney tangent, so I’m sorry what was your question?

MR: Why 1001 Nights? It’s okay, I kind of went off on a tangent there too. Because I thought to myself, “If no one has sang it to her, I’m going to sing it to her.”

RA: You can sing it!  Go ahead and I’ll join in!

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

MR: But yeah, why 1001 Nights?

RA: You know it’s kind of two-fold, the reasons behind it. The first one is that I’m a child of mixed nationalities and when I was growing up I didn’t have or see a lot of books for kids from diverse backgrounds. It was really important to me that if I was writing a book I wanted to do it from a different perspective because I’m fascinated by that.  Secondly, my husband is Persian, and the narrative of Scheherazade is actually the frame story surrounding 1001 night and it is a Persian story.  So I decided when I was going through deciding what it was I wanted to write that it would be kind of cool and that I could make it a YA narrative. So that was kind of my rationalization.

MR: Well, no one else has done it and I think that’s great. I’m so excited about it.  Is there anything specific that you want readers to take away from The Wrath and the Dawn? Like a theme?

RA: I don’t know about a theme so much.  I wanted the story to be about, and one of my friends Lauren DeStefano said that this book is about bad decisions, and I love that because it is.

MR: I read her review about it and she said something about how Dr. Phil would quit.

RA: I love her review, I laughed so hard when I saw it. I thought it was fantastic. And that is really what the book is about, it is about choice and consequence. And I think that it is definitely what I want people to take away and I hope that everyone is transported to another world.

MR: That’s really cool. I’ve also heard that it is a pretty epic romance. So did you take anything from your relationship with your husband and make it more epic to influence Khalid and Shazi?

RA: I think that… I love my husband very much, and I think it is difficult to say that you take anything from your own life, because I feel that I wanted people to fall in love with the characters and falling in love as Shazi and Khalid fell in love. Romance is really important to me because I’m a huge fan of romance, and I wanted it to be a huge deal in the book. I wanted it to not be kind of “insta-lovey,” but have it be a slow burn and I hope I achieved that.

MR: Can you tell me one of your favorite romances you’ve read recently?

RA: Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan of Marie Rutowski’s The Winners Curse and The Winner’s Crime.  I also love Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. I also really like to read historical romances. I mean I think there are a lot of really good romances, I’m a fan of Stephanie Perkins, Libba Bray, so I just love YA Romance and I think it’s wonderful.

MR: Me too.  There’s such a wealth of books out there in YA romance.  And I’ve not read one that is completely boring or terrible, because they are all different and it’s great, which is another reason I’m excited to read yours.

RA: Aww.

MR: So what can readers expect from book 2, without giving away too many spoilers?

RA: Lots of sword fighting and lots of swooning and possibly a tear or two.

reneereading

Author Q & A

MR: Is it going to be influenced by another classic work? Or is it still going to be on the theme of 1001 Nights?

RA: It’s very similar to The Wrath and the Dawn.  It is tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger, and I’m working on edits for that right now.

MR: I’ve heard they (edits) can be a pain.

RA: I keep telling myself that it is going to be worth it and that it’s going to be a better book.

MR: I just always see on Twitter that authors are always editing.

RA: Especially for book 2! And I didn’t believe that until I started writing it, and I was like, “Oh, this is tough!”

MR: Well, I’ve been following, ever since BEA last year, the We Need Diverse books initiative and I’ve read some of the articles you’ve posted on your website.  Do you have any events or panels about these soon?

RA: There are definitely some panels coming up. I think I’m supposed to be on one soon, but I don’t have my schedule in front of me! I know at BEA Book Con there is a big signing happening that will have a lot of the We Need Diverse books authors.  I think it’s on Friday?

It was at this point in the interview where we started discussing travel and how much Renée has traveled around the world.  We invited her to join us for dinner, and she invited us to her after party (which we couldn’t attend, so sad about that!)

 

Not only is Ahdieh’s novel worth my 5 Bard review, but having her here in Charlotte means that we might run into her again!

Renée Signing

Renée Signing

Thank you so much to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for allowing us to interview you.

You can catch Renée at Book Expo America this week in New York City, and if you are a Charlotte Local then you can see her at ImaginOn with fellow YA authors Brendan Reichs and Carrie Ryan on June 16, 2015.

 

Author Spotlight: Ken Baker

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Ken Baker is the E! News/E! Online Senior Coorespondent and Breaking New Editor, an acclaimed author, producer, public speaker, and former pro-hockey player.

Ken reports breaking news, conducts celebrity interviews, delivers investigative reports and hosts a range of news segments for E! News, E! Online, E! International, E! News specials, and the network’s live events.

Baker has published six books.  His newest work is a novel due out in April 2014 titled “How I got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love,” a story about an obese teen who is pressured by her family to go on a reality show to lose weight and, in so doing, learns the real meaning of freedom.

His debut novel, “Fangirl” (Running Press, 2012), told the story of a pop star who falls in love with a fan amid a sensational tabloid drama.  Ken is adapting “Fangirl” into a movie in collaboration with Converge Media.

Ken is currently at work on a series of Hollywood-themed thrillers set for release in 2015.

Be sure to check out my review of Baker’s newest novel, How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love.

As part of the blog tour, I had the opportunity to send Ken Baker a few questions concerning his newest novel!  Not going to lie, it was a bit intimidating considering how successful Baker is as a journalist/tv personality.

Here is the interview!

1. As a former sufferer of an eating disorder, it was both liberating and extremely hard to read about the struggles that Emery had with her weight. What inspired you to write about such a controversial topic?

I’m sorry to hear of your struggle. But you are definitely not alone. My guess is that the percentage of people who suffer from eating disorders is much higher than scientifically reported – especially amongst teenage girls and young women. There is just so much damn pressure to have the perfect “bikini body” or to look like that model in the magazine or your favorite celebrity. It really takes a toll on a person’s body, mind and spirit. It’s damaging.

The reason I chose this topic to explore in my novel is because an issue that impacts so many of us is one worth examining in a deeper way that only a novel truly can. It’s an issue that is one people’s minds, that they can relate to, and I want to write stories that connect and ring true for the audience.

2. Did you look to any non-fictional reality shows when you were constructing this story? If so, which ones and why?

The show in the book is called “Fifty Pounds to Freedom,” and it honestly is a fictional show. But, if there is any reference point to existing reality shows, it would a little bit of The Biggest Loser, mixed with some Keeping up with the Kardashians, with a dash of The Amazing Race and Survivor thrown in as well. In other words, the show is something of a melting pot of the hugely popular reality TV programs out there now. A funny story is that last year I told a friend of mine about the book I was writing. She is a reality TV executive, and when I told her about the outrageous reality challenge show I created in my novel she goes, “Oh, that would be a great show!” I love my friend to death, but I think she might conclude differently after reading about Emery’s experience on it!

3. I love Emery’s sarcastic cadence and innate wittiness. Did you always picture her as headstrong and intelligent over the lazy standard obese teenager stereotype? How did her character blossom from conception to completion? 

Thanks! In part, Emery is based on some young women I have known who have struggled with their weight. I actually interviewed several while I was outlining and researching the novel. I wanted Emery to feel real and, as a journalist, the best way I know how to do this is to interview actual human beings who are similar to the character I am writing. There was one anonymous young woman who was obese during high school, who generously opened up to me in my researching process, and I am forever grateful to her. So, yeah, that is the “secret” behind how a grown man could depict the inner workings of a teenage girl. Research!

4. Since I did struggle with eating issues, I have to ask, do you think that Emery would have continued on a healthy diet with no harmful cheats, or do you think that old habits might die hard?

When the story ends, Emery is in a transformative place in her life. She has gained valuable insights and drawn conclusions about herself and how she wants to live and treat her body moving forward. I don’t know what happens to her, but she probably is just like the rest of us – perfectly imperfect – and faces her daily battle with heart and humanity.

 5. The novel really focuses on self love and focusing on a healthy sense of self.  Can you give readers one tip to help them achieve this?

My novel is far from a self-help book, or a weight-loss manual. It is a fun story written about a serious topic. But I am not Dr. Oz or Dr. Drew. However, my favorite quote from Emery, and there are many zingers in the novel, is this one: “The difference between being ugly and beautiful has zero to do with your appearance.” And I think that is a valuable nugget of take-away wisdom.

 

Connect to Ken!

Twitter: @KenBakerNow

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KenBakerNow

Buy Ken’s Book!

    
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Thank you so much to Ken Baker for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read and we hope you will go and pick up a copy of his novel!

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a naughty puppy. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once. She is a former speech teacher, theater director, and enjoyed a brief but disastrous career as a door-to-door pollster. In her spare time, Jennifer tends to panic, wondering what she has forgotten to do that has allowed her any spare time.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR):  All of us here at A Midsummer Night’s Read would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you and for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us!
First and foremost, we want to congratulate you on the success of The False Prince and tell you again how much we enjoyed it! So the first question here is how did you come up with Sage’s story?
Jennifer Nielsen (JN):  Thank you very much for having me here. I’d actually had the seeds for this story in mind for some time, but never could get the right protagonist. One day I was listening to the song, Guaranteed, by the amazing Eddie Vedder. A line in that song, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed” caught my ear, and my imagination. Sage was born in that line, and once I had him, I had his story.
MSNR: Was his story essentially the same when you first started writing it? Or did certain aspects change through the writing and editing process?
JN: Minor things changed, as always will happen in a story. But The False Prince was actually the most linear, quick manuscript I’ve ever written. Sage came to me complete, so writing this book wasn’t really about creating his story, but rather it was about getting the words down to let the story unfold.
MSNR: Is there any real life inspiration for Carthya and the situation concerning Sage and the other orphans?  Was it hard to create your own world rather than use other historical events?
JN: Sage is a completely unique character, but I do confess this: many years ago when I was a high school debate teacher, I had a student who was popular, brilliant, and talented…and also a bit of a thief. He used to steal wristwatches from our bus drivers before tournaments. Luckily, he always returned them at the end of the ride, usually with the bus driver thanking him for his honesty. I did think of this student a few times when Sage was stealing something.
About the world creation, I love the freedom of basing my settings on actual history but then adding in original details that give it a fantasy feel. I do a lot of research to ground the story in events or traditions that could have happened, though of course, much of it never did.
MSNR: Speaking of which, do you know if the purchase of orphans as servants happened in reality? I was wondering that the entire time!
JN: From my understanding, there were many instances of the wealthy purchasing people as indentured servants (my great-grandmother actually came to this country after buying her freedom as an indentured servant), but I think in most cases, both parties entered willingly into the contract. In my research, I never found an example of servants being taken against their will. So what happened to Sage is a sort of combination between indentured servitude and slavery.
MSNR: What can you tell us about the upcoming sequel?
JN: I can tell you the title, The Runaway King, and that it should be out next spring. I can tell you that for Sage, things will get worse. And um, I can’t say anything else.
MSNR: Will readers see Imogen and the betrothed battle for his attentions and his affections?
JN: There is a definite chance of this possibly happening. Or not. (Cheeky grin)
MSNR: Will Connor be returning as a foe in the future? Or will Sage be facing new enemies?
JN: See my snarky, unhelpful answer above.
MSNR: Will we find out who really killed the royal family?
JN: Other than what is revealed in The False Prince? Hmm, that’s a great question!
MSNR: We could keep asking questions about this wonderful book all day, but we know you need to keep some secrets for the upcoming installments! So just a few standard questions for our readers.  What made you want to become a writer?
JN: When I was choosing a career, I never actually gave any serious consideration to becoming an author. I’d never met any authors, and so it never felt like a real career choice. (This is where I pause to give a plug for schools bringing in authors, or for parents taking their children to local book signings – it’s invaluable to young writers!) Then one day I was reading a book by an author I had always loved. All of a sudden, it wasn’t enough to live in someone else’s fictional world. I wanted to create my own. That was when I knew I wanted to turn my hobby into a career.
MSNR: Do you have any advice or suggestions for readers who are interested in becoming authors?
JN: My advice comes from a quote by Winston Churchill: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” There are so many talented people who abandon their dreams because they become discouraged too soon. Success may not happen on your first or second or third manuscript. It may not happen in the way you expected, or as quickly as you’d hoped. But if you keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting, you will one day find success.
MSNR: Thank you so much again, Jennifer, for stepping away from Sage and his friends to discuss their trials with us!  We can’t tell you enough how much we enjoyed The False Prince and how invested we are in Sage’s future.  We will try to wait patiently to find out what happens!
JN: Thank you. It’s been an honor to visit here, and I very much hope you’ll find that The Runaway King was well worth the wait!

Check out our review of The False Prince
Buy The False Prince

Author Spotlight: Diana Peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR):  Welcome to A Midsummer Night’s Read, Diana!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy promotion schedule to stop by.  Congratulations on the success of your most recent release, For Darkness Shows the Stars, we loved it!

MSNR: I have to say that For Darkness Shows the Stars was nothing like I expected, and I love what you did with Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Why Persuasion out of Austen’s works?
Diana Peterfreund (DP): I love Persuasion and I feel like it’s one of Jane Austen’s novels that doesn’t get the same amount of attention as, say, Pride & Prejudice. There have been dozens of retellings of that one, and Emma, of course, has Clueless, among others. I wanted to see what could be done with my favorite.

MSNR: Can you tell us a little bit about the world building you did to create Emma and Kai’s rebuilt society? Why choose that setting to retell Persuasion?
DP: My first concern was creating a society where the notion of class was a real, quantifiable thing. I also wanted to make sure this was a society whose class system was about to break down, even if the Powers-That-Be weren’t entirely aware of it yet. That’s what you have in Persuasion: a landed nobility that thinks they’re better than everyone, even though they might be in debt to an up and coming, industrious middle class. Everything else sort of built from that need, and when I came up with the concept of the anti-technology Luddites and the world that made them that way, I realized it would be an excellent way to incorporate the sort of pastoral, historical feel of Austen into my futuristic world.

MSNR: Not going to lie, I desperately want to have more from Elliot and Kai’s world, especially with the way For Darkness Shows the Stars ended.  Is there a possibility for more? Or is it definitely a stand alone?
DP: There’s always the free prequel, “Among the Nameless Stars.” It’s funny; I specifically set out to write this book as a standalone because I haven’t done that before and because there’s a real dearth of them in the YA market now. But I’ve been asked about a sequel so often I understand why everyone else likes to write series! I will never say never. Besides, I’ve kind of got a reputation for writing short stories set in my book worlds, so…

MSNR: I have to say I enjoyed the tortuous relationship between Elliot and Kai, and as much as I wished there was more KISSING in For Darkness Shows the Stars, I think that the payoff was much better this way. Were you tempted to throw some in there that eventually didn’t make the final draft?
DP: Ah, the kissing. Well, there were a few thoughts going into that one. I thought not shoving in a big make-out session was probably more true to Austen. Additionally, Kai and Elliot are extremely private people, so a big public makeout session wouldn’t be on their to-do list under any circumstances. There was a question during edits about whether she was in his cabin there at the end (which I guess means Ro would be there too?), and I decided to leave it as “cabins” and let the reader draw the conclusion that felt most comfortable to them. And of course, I’ve gotten a lot of question about what exactly happens in the letters after Chapter Nine!

MSNR: What inspired the beautiful Star Cavern in the novel?
DP: The star cavern was inspired by the beautiful glow worm caves found in New Zealand, where For Darkness Shows the Stars is set. When I visited New Zealand in 2004, we visited these caves in the North Island and I was utterly enchanted. I felt like a natural miracle was one that would mean a lot to the nature-loving Luddites in my book, and it had a beautiful resonance with the story of Noah and the rainbow and the olive tree, so I made it a sacred space for them.


MSNR: Can you tell us scientifically what caused the Reduction? Or is it something left to the imagination and God?
DP: I actually did a ton of research on epigenetics and endogenous retroviruses that didn’t make it into the novel because it wasn’t part of Elliot’s story or Elliot’s POV. The former is truly a fascinating field, less about genetic changes (which rely more on inheritability, which of course is not 100%) and more about the expression of genes we already have. As for endogenous retroviruses, our DNA is full of both genes that don’t work, and remnants viruses that our ancestors have fought off but have somehow become incorporated into our DNA — “junk” that we think isn’t useful to us anymore, like resistance to diseases that no longer exist. But they aren’t really junk, as occasionally, they unexpectedly “switch on,” and scientists still aren’t sure exactly why, or how to get them to “turn off” again. One example of this is that a gene that makes people susceptible to Crohn’s disease is suddenly switching on in people again after thousands of years. Is it modern diets? Genetically modified wheat? A retrovirus? There have been other studies that show levels of ERVs (endogenous retroviruses) in people with certain mental disorders are higher than in the general population. At it’s very, very simplest, my story imagines a world in which genetic engineering centered on using enhanced forms of artifically induced retroviruses to switch on “good genes” to make our bodies stronger and better– but it went terribly wrong, and activated swaths of “bad genes” in the process.  And I could go into more detail, but it would take charts and scientific papers.

MSNR: If you could choose any Austen novel, besides Persuasion, which would you recommend to readers, and why?
DP: If they haven’t read any Austen, I definitely recommend Pride & Prejudice. There’s a reason most people read that first, as it’s the one most suited to our modern tastes in terms of character and pacing. The heroine, Lizzy, is hilarious, and her story is one that will resonate with modern readers a lot.

MSNR: Would you consider adapting another classic novel into a modern YA story? (I mean you did so wonderfully on this one!)
DP: Thank you. And yes. And my lips are sealed. 🙂

MSNR: You have been in the publishing world for a while, so what advice would you give to young adults that would like to become an author?
DP: Do not be in too much of a hurry to become “an author.” The day you do, your writing stops being for YOU, and you want to make sure you have a very clear sense of what you are a writer are before that happens. If you want to write, then write. Write anything and everything (journals, limericks, a rock opera!), read as much as you possibly can, but also learn a whole lot outside of reading and writing so that you have something interesting to write about. Travel and talk to people and study some completely unrelated subject. I learned very little in the creative writing classes I took that I use in my work, but I can point to several stories that arose directly from stuff I learned in a (non-writing) class at school – geology, history, sociology, even linguistics!

MSNR: Any hints on upcoming projects? J
DP: My next book is really frocktastic. Frocktacular. Frockalicious. After four books where my heroine wears essentially jeans and sneakers (with the occasionally black robe), two where the heroine wears hunting camos the whole time, and one where poor Elliot’s never heard of velvet or touched silk, and is shocked by anything in bright colors, it’s nice to write one about a real clotheshorse. I love clothes myself, so I really went to town. And that’s all I’m going to say.

MSNR: Thank you so much for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read! I can’t wait to read what you have next, and I will definitely be re-reading Persuasion (it’s been a while) soon.
DP: Thank you so much for having me! I hope you enjoy your re-read of Persuasion. I am curious if, coming into it after For Darkness, you’ll see something different in the characters, or make connections between my characters and their Austenian counterparts that you hadn’t before. I’ll admit, if my book can get more people interested in Persuasion, I’ll feel like I’ve done my duty!
Check out our review of For Darkness Shows the Stars
Purchase Persuasion 
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